A curious person who looks at the file format situation with a discerning eye -- and consults balanced sources on both sides -- must at least conclude that ODF & Microsoft's OOXML are two very different things...with two very different objectives.
Groklaw has published an anonymous comment from a reader which usefully cites the OASIS (ODF) and Ecma (OOXML) technical committees' statements-of-purpose to discern the fundamental differences. They editorialize further...
I think what this shows is that ODF and MS-OOXML are not intended to be equivalent to each other. MS-OOXML is the proprietary file format for a product Microsoft happens to be shipping today (or soon at least)...ODF however is intended to be something much broader and more permanent than MS-OOXML. Another way of looking at it is that ODF is a document standard while MS-OOXML is a product brochure.
There will be an interesting discussion in coming weeks about two important issues arrising from Microsoft's file format work on the OOXML specification itself and also on the arguments Microsoft is making to sketch out new and non-existent ODF weaknesses. The two issues on which the conversation will turn are:
- backward compatibility
Both are being framed as advantages to Microsoft, when a close look reveals Microsoft are delivering as poorly on both accounts as they always have done and it is unequivocally ODF that provides the best alternative.
Moreover, the underlying -- perhaps unspoken -- question that interests me throughout this upcoming conversation is going to be, "When do customers stop believing what the monopolist says about products and technologies?" In other words, "What does it take to make customers listen with the necassarily acute skepticism? What do they need to know about Microsoft's intentions or about the state of readiness of the much more technically successful and cost-effective alternatives? Where's that audience's tipping point?"
It has been my feeling that customers will be more skeptical when alternatives exist which are better integrated and more easily understood & managed. Even though ODF has existed for some years now in easily deployable form and OOXML is the option which doesn't exist yet on the market in deployable form (and which is part of a dramatic catch-up rescue effort), ODF and the ODF-ready document/information processing chains will need to be 2-3 times more effective on all the discernable requirements in order for ODF to become believably dominant.
Meanwhile, we'll need to turn up our iPods to tolerate this cacaphonous, oxymoronic and non-sensical argument that there should be more than one standard format for documents.